Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, led over 115 members of Congress from both parties in a letter urging President Trump to provide full Federal funding for the National Guard COVID-19 response in all states and territories. Last week, President Trump extended authority under Title 32 for the National Guard to support COVID-19, but he imposed a 25% cost share on the majority of states and territories.

“States are the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. Due to the additional costs and lost revenues caused by COVID-19, state and local governments are facing unprecedented pressures on their budgets,” the members wrote. “As we work to combat the pandemic, reopen the economy, and get kids back in schools, this is the wrong time to unnecessarily burden states with additional costs. Not only will this take away state resources from other COVID-19 response efforts, but it has the potential to lead to a reduction in National Guard members supporting COVID-19 response.”

“Furthermore, we are alarmed with your decision to treat states differently. Picking and choosing which states receive full Federal funding, whatever the rationale, sets a dangerous precedent and raises serious questions about the motivations for why certain states are selected and others are not,” the members continued. “Every state is feeling the strain of this pandemic and the National Guard mission in each state is the same – to help the emergency response to the pandemic. We see no logical justification for treating states differently.” 

The National Guard has played an instrumental role in COVID-19 response and recovery across the country, serving as a critical tool for states and territories to utilize for their unique and changing needs. They have been used for a range of missions such as supporting testing sites and assembling test kits, conducting contact tracing, staffing food banks, and assisting long-term care facilities. Republican and Democratic governors alike asked for an extension of Title 32.

You can read the full letter here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Peter King (R-NY) released the following statement after introducing the TSA Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act, which would require Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to streamline the application and renewal process transportation workers have to go through to receive certain TSA credentials.

“Transportation workers across the country must go through a process that is redundant and burdensome to hold three separate TSA credentials required by law. Renewal dates and fees are different for each of these requisite credentials, which results in wasted time and money for workers to simply keep doing their jobs,” said Rep. Smith. “The TSA Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act would require TSA to streamline this process so workers can more easily keep their credentials up-to-date. I want to thank my constituents for raising this issue affecting so many transportation workers, and I am proud to have the support from the Teamsters, the American Trucking Association and Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO in helping us find a solution.”

“I commend Congressman Smith for this legislation and look forward to working with him to make sure this measure becomes law,” said Rep. King. “To ensure our economic recovery from this pandemic we need our dedicated transportation workers focused on their important roles and not on bureaucratic tape. This legislation ensures that focus and reduces wasted time.”

Currently, certain transportation workers need three credentials in order to do their jobs: the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), the Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME), and TSA PreCheck. To obtain and renew these credentials, they must apply to three separate portals, pay three separate fees, and renew on different schedules varying by expiration date. The TSA Background Checks Modernization Act would require TSA to streamline this application process and establish a reduced fee structure for transportation workers applying for or renewing more than one of these credentials.

This bill does not make any modifications to the back-end security assessment conducted on individual applicants, ensuring that applicants must undergo the same level of review as they do under current law. The streamlined application and renewal process established by this bill would modernize the consumer-facing application process and reduce the burden on American transportation workers who must maintain more than one TSA credential.

The full text of the bill can be found here.  This legislation has been endorsed by the Teamsters; the American Trucking Association; and Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Statements of Support:

Teamsters:

“Truck drivers have enough to worry about these days; whether it’s dealing with the ongoing pandemic, safely navigating an 80,000 pound truck through city traffic, or meeting ever-tighter delivery windows, waiting to get their required credentials from the government shouldn’t be one of them. We applaud Congressman Smith and Congressman King for introducing legislation that will help drivers get on the job, and stay on the job, with fewer headaches and less time spent waiting to get their assorted credentials.”

American Trucking Association:

“Truck drivers are currently required to undergo duplicative STAs in order to obtain hazardous materials endorsements (HMEs) and Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs), navigating through a redundant and overly-burdensome process that is both timely and costly. The trucking industry would benefit significantly from legislation permitting an individual to enroll at a TSA-designated universal enrollment center once and use the application to enroll in two or more programs. The TSA Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act will ensure a streamlined enrollment and renewal process without sacrificing the integrity of TSA’s critical security obligations, and will save the trucking industry significant financial resources in unnecessary and duplicative fees. ATA is proud to endorse your thoughtful and timely legislation.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today after President Trump announced that some states will be required to fund a portion of costs for the National Guard deployment in support of COVID-19 response through the end of 2020.

“This decision reflects President Trump’s willful ignorance of the true state of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dire budget situation facing state and local governments. The President and this White House are continuing their abdication of responsibility by unnecessarily requiring states to pick up part of the tab for the National Guard’s pandemic response.

“This is not the time to dump additional costs on states who are facing unprecedented cost increases and revenue shortfalls. State and local governments have been leading the effort to contain the pandemic, reopen the economy and schools, and additional costs only hamper their response. The National Guard has played a critical role in supporting state COVID-19 response including assembling testing kits, staffing testing sites, conducting contact tracing, supporting food banks, and assisting long-term care facilities. The President should be providing the full support of the federal government for this mission.

“The President is also playing politics by picking a few states to get special treatment over others and not adequately responding with the gravity necessary to address the crisis. Earlier this week, Vice President Pence said that the President has “spared no expense” when it comes to the COVID-19 response. That is patently false. The President has instead passed those expenses to the states, forcing them to bear costs that should be covered by the federal government.

“We know how to combat this virus. We can contain this pandemic. To do so, however, it will require a President to actually lead and use the full capability of the federal government in a coordinated national response, instead of pushing the burden to the states.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 7617, the second minibus of the fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills, which includes bills for Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Service and General Government, Labor-HHS-Education, Defense, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development:

“This appropriations package makes important investments to expand opportunities for all in Washington state and across the country. H.R. 7617 will improve our nation’s infrastructure, prioritize public health, invest in education and job training, expand access to affordable and fair housing, promote police reforms, support service members and military families, and combat climate change for generations to come.

“The legislation provides $89 billion in funding for new transportation and housing infrastructure projects, placing special emphasis on our nation’s most vulnerable communities. It takes steps to address our nation’s homelessness and housing affordability crisis by investing additional resources in affordable housing programs such as the Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers program and Homeless Assistant Grants. The bill also includes $8 billion in emergency funding for the BUILD and Capital Investment Grant programs, which communities across the country rely on to complete local transportation and infrastructure projects.

“A priority across the federal government needs to be combatting climate change. Under this bill, we drastically increase funding for renewable energy, electric grid modernization, and climate research. In addition, it makes a necessary investment of over $20 billion in emergency funding for green infrastructure investments to spur our transition to a clean economy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of investments in public health, medical research, and health care capacity. The Puget Sound is home to nationally renowned research and medical institutions like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington who rely on federal funding provided in this bill. The legislation also provides increased funding for Community Health Centers, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant program, all of which provide vital care to hundreds of thousands of residents in the 9th District.

“As many Americans face unemployment, investments in workforce training and higher education has never been more important. This legislation increases funding for community colleges, registered apprenticeships, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant programs to support youth and adults with high-quality job training. The pandemic has also exposed the need for even more investment in our K-12 schools and afterschool programs.  This bill increases funding for local school districts, special education, and community learning centers to serve students in vulnerable communities outside of regular school hours.

“This legislation also continues our fight to make critical reforms to policing and accountability. It conditions certain funds to state and local governments on improving police practices that were outlined in the Justice in Policing Act such as eliminating racial profiling and ending implicit bias, banning excessive force and chokeholds, and removing barriers to investigating law enforcement misconduct. In response to the gross misuse of Federal law enforcement personnel in Portland and their deployment to Seattle and other cities, the bill includes new restrictions on their authorities to engage mass gatherings or other peaceful protests.

“The programs funded in this appropriations bill reflects our values and priorities, and I will continue to fight for funding that reinforces our commitment to the health and wellbeing of communities in the future.”

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Legislation follows Seattle Times investigative report detailing Hanford workers’ toxic exposure and related illnesses, as well as financial challenges related to lack of federal worker’s compensation benefits

Seattle Times: Hanford workers were given leaky respirators at contaminated job site, contractor’s documents revealLINK

Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 would make it easier for workers at the Hanford clean-up and other nuclear clean-up sites to receive the full benefits they’re entitled to when suffering illnesses due to toxic exposure on the job

Representative Smith: “This bill would help spur research necessary to understand the impacts of exposure to toxic substances on workers’ health and ultimately enable workers to more easily receive the compensation they deserve for illnesses contracted on the job”

Senator Murray: “This legislation takes the right steps to…ensure Hanford workers and those at other nuclear clean-up sites can obtain the full benefits they’re entitled to when they’ve contracted illnesses as a result of workplace exposure”

Legislation also supported by Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598, Central WA Building & Construction Trades


(Washington, D.C.) –
U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D, WA-09), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health and labor committee, introduced legislation in the Senate and House that will ensure cleanup workers at the Hanford Nuclear Site and other Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear sites can more easily claim worker’s compensation benefits when they suffer from certain medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxic substances. Currently, Hanford workers can file for worker’s compensation claims when they have health issues through both the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries and DOE’s third-party insurer, Penser. Washington state’s 2018 presumption law makes it easier for Hanford workers to file for state compensation claims for covered conditions, but the state program, while valuable, very often falls short of being able to compensate these workers equitably when they are off the job from work-related illness due to toxic exposure. The Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 seeks to make such claims at the federal level more achievable, and allow Hanford workers and workers at similar DOE sites to collect the full worker’s compensation benefits they’re entitled to.

“Workers at nuclear cleanup sites such as Hanford face risks to their health and wellbeing every day. Unfortunately, it is difficult for workers to receive benefits under federal law in many instances when they suffer medical illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances,” said Congressman Smith. “This bill would help spur research necessary to understand the impacts of exposure to toxic substances on workers’ health and ultimately enable workers to more easily receive the compensation they deserve for illnesses contracted on the job. I am pleased to join Senator Murray in introducing this bill and appreciate her tireless leadership in fighting for Hanford workers.”

“Unfortunately, it is clear there’s a lot we don’t know regarding the health outcomes of exposure to the toxic substances required for plutonium production and other nuclear site activities—and workers like those at the Hanford site have paid the price for this critical hole in the research,” said Senator Murray. "This legislation takes the right steps to help fix this knowledge gap and ensure Hanford workers and those at other nuclear clean-up sites can obtain the full benefits they’re entitled to when they’ve contracted illnesses as a result of workplace exposure. I’m proud to be introducing it with my Washington state colleague Representative Smith, and I’m looking forward to working together to push this needed legislation through to the finish line.” 

The legislation comes after the Seattle Times ran an investigative story in March 2020 profiling a worker who suffered from seizures after being exposed to toxic substances at the Plutonium Finishing Plant on the Hanford site, as well as the financial problems the worker encountered following their diagnosis. The Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 would expand covered employees and the covered illnesses under subtitle E, Section 3671 of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (EEOICPA) to specifically include employees exposed to toxic substances at cleanup sites. Part E provides variable cash and medical benefits for DOE contractor and subcontractor employees who contracted an illness or died as a result of exposure to any toxic substance, as well as their eligible survivors. A person is eligible for Part E benefits if it is “at least as likely as not” that exposure to a toxic substance at a DOE facility caused, contributed to, or aggravated the worker’s illness or death.

There has been a lack of substantial clinical or epidemiological studies performed in relation to toxic exposures at DOE sites, and as such, there is no way to create an accurate causal correlation for Part E, similar to what has been effectively established for Part B of the program, which involves radiological exposures. As a result of the lack of this knowledge, federal law provides very little remedy to workers who suffer illness from these toxic exposures. To that end, the Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 would amend Part E of the EEOICPA to establish a presumption of occupational disease exposures, create a research program to determine exposure-disease correlation, and direct the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate scientific evidence regarding chemical exposures—making it easier for Hanford clean-up workers and workers at other DOE nuclear clean-up sites to claim federal worker’s compensation benefits.

“Every day our Nation relies on skilled and dedicated working families to serves our Country’s needs and accomplish our most important goals. There is no more apparent example of this dedication than the decades of operation and remediation performed at our Nation’s nuclear cleanup sites.  The hazardous nature of this work has the potential to expose workers to some of the most toxic substances on earth.  Too long have the impacts of these toxic substance exposures been overlooked and their study underfunded, leaving many hardworking American families without the care they deserve.  Senator Murray’s efforts address this injustice for so many families struggling with illness and will secure the research needed to protect American families as they continue their work on behalf of us all,” said Nickolas Bumpaous, President of Central Washington Building & Construction Trades.

“I’ve worked 43 years in the construction trades, most of them at Hanford, and now as the Business Manager of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union. Through all of those years I’ve witnessed firsthand the dedication of thousands of hard working men and women to support the national mission. I’ve also witnessed their sacrifices and illnesses and the hazardous work and the toxic environments these men and women have been exposed to. These workers deserve more and better care. I support and appreciate Senator Murray’s efforts to help these dedicated working families,” said Randy Walli, Business Manager of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598.

Congressman Smith has fought for worker safety and protections at the Hanford site for years. In his role as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Smith has passed into law provisions to enhance whistleblower protections, increase accountability for the release of radioactive or hazardous contamination, and improved transparency on vapors from nuclear tanks. He has also fought for better oversight of nuclear facilities across the country, including protecting the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) from dangerous cuts and reforms that harm its mission of independent nuclear safety and oversight. Senator Murray has long worked to make sure the federal government honors its moral and legal obligation to Hanford clean-up, including fighting repeatedly against efforts to slash or cut federal funding for the vital DOE project and advocating on at the federal level on separate occasions to help ensure Hanford workers receive sick leave back pay and regular pay during work-stop periods due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Murray and her office began working in 2019 to investigate the needs of Hanford workers who have specifically been exposed to toxic chemicals at DOE sites. 

In addition to the Central Washington Building & Construction Trades, and Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598, the legislation is supported by the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, Metal Trades.

Read the bill text HERE.

For more information, read the fact sheet available HERE.

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